1936 Lionel Trains Mural Photograph Posters

Value (2011) | $7,000 Auction$9,000 Auction
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GUEST:
About 15 years ago, I was visiting a friend in Youngstown, Ohio. And he saw a newspaper ad for an auction of a hobby shop in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, that was going out of business and was selling off the contents of the store. And besides buying a few trains, we saw these posters here. I kind of fell in love with them, right then and there on the spot, said I had to have them, and so I bought both of them together. For the pair, I paid about $1,000.

APPRAISER:
And since you've had them, you've done some research into them and you found some information out.

GUEST:
I, through the Internet, found that the Train Collectors Association Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, has a real reference library, and they were able to identify exactly when they were made, and they sent me copies of the actual catalogue from 1936.

APPRAISER:
You showed me the Lionel accessories catalogue that advertises both of these for the Lionel toy department stores as large, mural-size posters of two trains, the top one from the Pennsylvania Railroad, the bottom one from Union Pacific. They're very careful to point out that these trains are in scenes that are populated with other Lionel accessories.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And in 1936, they were selling these for $20 a piece.

GUEST:
Correct.

APPRAISER:
These are gigantic images. They are 14 feet long by four feet high. By sheer size alone, they're very impressive. These are fantastic modernist images, and these are really the pinnacle of American streamlined trains. I will also tell you that they are very rare. From the research I've done, I can't find any other copies that have come up for sale.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
Now, we know that since they were sold by catalogue in the 1930s, they're not one-of-a-kind images.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
More were made. I actually spoke to three other people about this. I spoke to our photography expert, because I'd like to point out that each one of these is a photograph of an image enlarged, but each one of these is a single-sheet photograph. So this isn't several sheets pasted together; it's a single-sheet photograph. So it's very impressive as a photographic work. Then I spoke to someone who's an expert in toy advertising, and then I spoke to our specialist on toy trains. And we all agreed that they were something special.

GUEST:
How would they have printed this?

APPRAISER:
I don't know the answer to that. Even the photo specialist was unable to tell me that. Believe it or not, despite the way I'm dressed, my tendency is to be conservative when appraising things. And my colleagues and I disagreed a little bit on the price, but not too much. And we felt that a conservative estimate would be between $3,500 and $4,500 for each one.

GUEST:
Wow! That's fantastic.

APPRAISER:
We expect the person who would buy this would be a Lionel train person who has a large room, maybe with his model trains, maybe with other train accessories, and these would go perfectly on the wall.

GUEST:
This is the first time I've ever seen them displayed vertically like this.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2011)
$7,000 Auction$9,000 Auction
Event
Pittsburgh, PA (August 13, 2011)
Period
20th Century

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